The 2011 regular season is almost over and voters will soon cast their ballots for National League Most Valuable Player.
I don't know if there's ever been such a tight MVP race, with four different players having a legitimate shot at bringing home the hardware this season.
While pure statistics surely play a great role in determining an MVP, there is much more to the award than what a player looks like on paper (at least there should be).
Considering all of those factors, here is a Case for Each of the Top 5 NL MVP Candidates.
The Case For: Ryan Howard has quietly put together another great season. He leads all of baseball with 111 RBI and is two shy of the league-lead with 32 home runs.
When you're the biggest offensive threat on the best team in baseball, surely you have to garner some MVP attention, right?
The Case Against: Howard's name has scarcely come up in MVP chatter over the last two months. The biggest hindrance to his case is the fact that four other players around the league are having phenomenal seasons.
Also considering the fact he's batting near .250 and his slugging percentage is below .500, I'd be very surprised if Howard stole any votes.
Prediction: 0 percent
The Case For: The Arizona Diamondbacks are the surprise team in baseball this season and appear bound for the NL West title. Without Justin Upton, the D-Backs are nowhere near the position they're in today.
The 23-year-old is in the midst of his first 30-home run season and has had clutch hit after clutch hit for Arizona this season. The five-tooled star is hitting near .300, he's fourth in the league in slugging percentage and has swiped 20 bags.
The Case Against: No MVP candidate is more important to their teams' success this season than Justin Upton. The problem is, Upton has the worst numbers out of the three five-tooled players up for the award.
If I had a vote, there is no question it would belong to Upton. However, I think it will be hard for voters to give him the award.
Prediction: 15 percent
The Case For: Prince Fielder has once again proven why he's considered to be one of the most feared sluggers in the game today. His 31 home runs are three shy of the NL lead, and he's second in the league with 108 RBI.
The most surprising improvement in Fielder's game this season is his plate discipline. He has 92 walks compared to only 95 strikeouts, and he's learned to hit the ball to all parts of the field.
The Case Against: It's hard to make a case against Fielder because he's having a superb walk-year with the Milwaukee Brewers. The only question remaining is, will it be enough?
While he has established himself as one of the most dominant players in baseball, on paper, Prince is limited to hitting home runs and piling up RBI. Voters may not take into account what his presence in the Brewers' lineup does for players like Ryan Braun and Corey Hart.
The biggest dent to Fielder's case could be the fact that Braun will steal some votes away from him.
Prediction: 20 percent
The Case For: It's pretty clear that Matt Kemp is having a phenomenal season, probably the best individual season in baseball.
Kemp is top three in the NL in pretty much every offensive category, and more times than not, he'd be considered a shoo-in for the MVP award.
The Case Against: I am a very firm believer that the MVP should go to a player who delivers their team to the playoffs, or at a minimum has his team in the chase down the stretch.
In most cases, a player with Kemp's numbers would be found on a contending team, but the Dodgers are sub-.500 and haven't played meaningful games since May.
Kemp would be the last player on this list I'd give an MVP vote to. It will be interesting to see if voters feel differently.
Prediction: 30 percent
The Case For: While Kemp is getting most of the love, Ryan Braun is statistically having just as great of a season as the Dodgers slugger.
Braun leads Kemp in runs scored, doubles, triples and batting average, while Kemp leads Braun in home runs, RBI and stolen bases.
Braun is also far and away the NL leader in slugging percentage (.582) and OPS (.981), as well as having his Brewers in position for their first division title since 1982.
The Case Against: In the end, the NL MVP race should boil down to Braun and Kemp. They are both among the league leaders in every statistical category.
I firmly believe that Braun deserves the edge due to the fact the Brewers have found success on the field.
The only thing that will prevent Brauny from bringing home the hardware is, believe it or not, Prince Fielder. Whoever is going to vote for Kemp has most likely already made up their mind. But every vote that Prince receives is taking away a vote from Braun.
If that's what it all comes down to, then as shameful as it would be, Kemp may actually walk away with the NL MVP while "leading" his team to a sub-.500 record.
Prediction: 35 percent
Jeffrey Beckmann is a MLB Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow Jeffrey on his new Twitter account for all of his latest work. You can also hear him each Friday at 1 p.m. EST on B/R Baseball Roundtable.